I am sitting in my office at the university. It is almost 7 p.m., and I have two more hours to kill. My daughter has a dance class until 9 p.m. this evening. It wasn't so bad when I taught on Wednesday nights. However, since the end of the semester, I find myself with a whole lot of time on my hands on mid-week nights.
I'm not complaining. I rarely have alone time. Usually, I'm working or teaching after I'm done working and teaching. Not tonight. I just took a break from my blogging, walked to a window in the building that faces Lake Superior. Looked down. Saw a deer standing in a copse of trees. It muscles were wound tight. I could tell it was ready to bolt. Sure enough, a few seconds later, a car came rolling by, and the deer fled. I barely saw it leave. It was there one moment, and then it was gone.
Seeing a deer in a relatively populated area is not uncommon in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. On my way to work every morning, I am always alert for the flash of deer in my headlights. (This habit is a byproduct of a run-in with a Bambi one morning; I totaled my Mercury Sable for which I had just made the final loan payment.)
Yes, we Yoopers live side-by-side with wildlife. Deer. Rabbits. Skunks. Raccoons. Bear. We even identify seasons of the year by animals. The normal Yooper male, for example, spends a good portion of autumn preparing for November 15: opening day of deer season. (Some local school districts even cancel school on this day.) And then there's the spring awakening of the skunk, when you rise on trash collection morning to find your garbage bags eviscerated on your front lawn, musk still clinging in the air.
One October evening, as I was driving down a dirt road, a black bear came crashing through the trees. He was on a dead run and didn't even pause to consider the green Geo Metro barreling toward him. He was huge, shoulders higher than the hood of the car. If I had been going faster (or been a few feet closer), I would have had a vehicular close encounter of the ursine kind.
That's life in the U. P. Rabbits in your backyard (sometimes a stray moose, a la Northern Exposure). Like the animals, Yoopers are very much conditioned by the seasons. We are active in the spring and summer months. When the leaves start changing in September, we slow down, prepare for the cold weather. In winter, we hole up in our houses, where we have stored food to sustain us. We hibernate and watch The Voice in our caves.
Saint Marty thinks the Poet of the Week knows a little about this subject . . .
by: Janeen Rastall
At the shoe store,
you slip your sock into the metal sandal
to measure yourself heel to toe.
In the mirror, all you see are feet,
bearers of a hidden weight.
Slide your foot into this mud print,
heel to this heel.
Spread your toes and let your arches drop.
File your nails to fine points.
Shamble from shadow to oak shadow.
Find a tree hollow and scar the bark.